Local food defined by ... lack of clear definitions?

Simple words like local and sustainable can hide complex food system issues

Local food defined by ... lack of clear definitions?

The Daily Texan (newspaper of the University of Texas flagship Austin campus) has posted a very interesting article mulling over some of the complexities in the local food movement.

Food is an essential human need and the choices that students make regarding its consumption will have lasting effects on the system as a whole. It’s important to think critically about the issues — including the language of the movement — in order to fully understand the repercussions of our eating decisions.

That's the conclusion, and it's dead on. Working her way to that conclusion, author Brittany Smith examines some of the wrinkles in defining the terms local, sustainable, and organic, and understanding their real value.

Good article, worth reading. The one underlying flaw is the implication that "eating local" is an all-or-nothing proposition, which leads to some silliness such as

Many urbanized areas in the United States, like Las Vegas, are deserts, where local food is literally impossible to grow. By adopting a “local-only” philosophy, we’d be necessarily damning these cities that have come to thrive because of their dependence on outside food sources.

Impossible to grow food in the age of solar power, hydroponic/aquaponic systems and grow boxes? (Hydroponics require a good bit of startup water but then consume significantly less on an ongoing basis than do conventional soil-based growing methods.) The likely way toward more sustainable, locally-driven food systems is for large numbers of consumer to take small steps forward. Over the next few years, let's add 10,000 window gardens and solar-powered hydroponic systems to Las Vegas!

Still, as Smith notes, understanding the terms and arriving at more meaningful definitions are great steps forward.


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